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May 9, 2023

Version Control Explained and Best Practices

App Development & Integration

As the digital age continues to evolve, businesses need a way to systematically track, manage, and store different versions of their projects. To ensure productivity remains high and that your data is consistently secure, using version control systems (VCS) is vital. While you may be aware of what version control entails in theory, understanding how they work and utilizing proper best practices can initially seem daunting.

We will explore what version control is all about and why using such systems across teams or departments is essential. We will also outline some valuable tips for successfully running version control within your business.

What is version control, and why does it matter for your projects?

Version control refers to managing document, file, and software code changes. Essentially, version control is a tracking mechanism that allows developers to record changes to their work. It's important because it helps to ensure that the final product is consistent and error-free. Version control is also essential for collaboration because it allows teams of developers to work on duplicate files simultaneously. By using version control, developers can easily roll back changes, identify the source of errors, and collaborate seamlessly on complex projects. In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world of technology, version control is a must-have for any software development team.


Exploring the Types of Version Control Systems

Version control systems (VCS) are essential in software development, especially when working with multiple developers. These systems enable teams to collaborate efficiently by tracking changes to the codebase. 

In exploring the types of VCS available, it's important to note two main categories: centralized and distributed. 

  • Centralized systems like SVN have a single repository on a central server that controls all changes made to the codebase.
  • Distributed systems like Git have multiple repositories that mirror the central repository, allowing for local development without affecting the codebase until ready. 
  • Some VCSs, such as Mercurial, have centralized and distributed models. 

As developers, understanding the differences and choosing the right VCS can significantly affect productivity and workflow.

Version Control Systems

Subversion (SVN) Version Control

Subversion Version Control is an effective solution for managing software development projects. It provides a centralized repository that allows developers to easily collaborate on projects while tracking all changes made by each team member. With Subversion, teams can quickly identify bugs and make necessary adjustments with minimal disruption and effort. Additionally, SVN offers powerful branching capabilities that enable concurrent development and reduce risks associated with merging multiple code versions. By using Subversion for your software development project, you will always ensure that your team has access to the latest version of the codebase - ensuring no one gets left behind.

Pros of Subversion:

  1. Maintains a centralized repository for all code changes
  2. Allows teams to collaborate and track changes made by each member easily
  3. Powerful branching capabilities enable concurrent development with reduced risk
  4. Supports distributed workflows with multiple repositories
  5. Enables developers to quickly identify bugs, revert mistakes, and make necessary adjustments
  6. User-friendly interface that simplifies the version control process


Cons of Subversion:

  1. Relies on legacy systems - may not be compatible with newer technologies
  2. Performance issues when retrieving large files or merging complex branches
  3. Lack of advanced features
  4. Time-consuming installation and difficult for beginners


Git Version Control

Using Git in software development projects provides a distributed version control system that allows teams to work seamlessly on a project. It offers a local repository created for each team member that can be synced with a central repository when ready. This decentralized approach allows team members to work offline and achieve better collaboration. With Git, developers can create branches for each project feature or bug fix, allowing for parallel development and efficient management of workloads. Developers can also create pull requests to merge their changes with the main branch, making code reviews simple and efficient. Moreover, Git provides an excellent audit trail, which helps teams quickly trace modifications made to the codebase, reducing risks and insecurity. Using Git for software development can significantly enhance productivity, minimize errors, and save development time.

 Pros of Git:

  1. High performance
  2. Distributed version control system
  3. Branching and merging support
  4. Reduced risks and insecurity with an audit trail
  5. Offline access to the codebase
  6. Concurrent development capabilities


Cons of Git:

  1. Complex setup process
  2. Steep learning curve for beginners
  3. Lack of centralized repository management tools


Mercurial Version Control

Mercurial is another VCS that can be used in software development projects. It offers centralized and distributed models, which can be helpful for different development scenarios. Mercurial provides an intuitive and user-friendly interface that makes it easy for developers to manage their projects. This VCS supports branching and merging, enabling teams to work concurrently and without the risk of code conflicts.

Mercurial also offers powerful collaboration tools, including push and pull requests, which allow teams to share their work and receive feedback quickly. One of the main advantages of Mercurial is its robustness and stability, as many organizations have used it for years, and it has proven to be reliable in large-scale projects.

In addition, Mercurial has a simple installation process, which can save developers valuable time and resources. Unlike Git, Mercurial's interface is more uniform across different platforms, which can make it less confusing for beginners. However, Mercurial may lack some of the advanced features of Git, such as rebasing and staging.

When deciding between Git and Mercurial, it's essential to consider the specific needs of your organization and team. While Git may offer more advanced features, Mercurial can provide a simpler and more stable option. Ultimately, the choice between these VCSs depends on the type and scale of your project, as well as the preferences of your development team. 

Pros of Mercurial:

  1. Easy to use and set up

  2. Cross-platform compatibility

  3. Supports both centralized and distributed version control models

  4. Powerful branching system - allowing developers to work on multiple versions simultaneously

  5. Great for small teams working on a single project

  6. Fast, efficient, and reliable tracking of changes made to the codebase

  7. Allows users to easily back out or undo mistakes without affecting history


Cons of Mercurial:

  1. Limited support for Windows systems compared to other VCSs, such as Git

  2. Requires command-line knowledge, which can be intimidating for some beginners

  3. Difficult to manage large projects due to lack of automation tools

  4. Not suitable for real-time collaboration with multiple people

  5. No GUI-based client is available


Tips for Avoiding Mistakes and Maintaining Peace of Mind With Version Control

Version control can be a lifesaver for any software developer or team. However, it can also quickly become a source of frustration if mistakes are made, or the process needs to be appropriately maintained. To avoid these pitfalls and maintain peace of mind, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. It is important to always double-check before committing changes to a repository. This way, errors can be caught before becoming more significant.
  2. Clear and concise communication with team members is a must. It will help ensure everyone is on the same page and appropriately manages changes.
  3. Staying organized and maintaining a consistent workflow can also significantly reduce the chances of mistakes and make managing versions a smoother process.

Following these tips can streamline the version control process and enjoy its benefits.


Version control is a powerful tool that makes it easier to manage and organize all sorts of projects. It improves collaboration amongst team members, eliminates the risk of losing information through multiple versions, and helps prevent significant errors throughout the project. With version control, teams can work together without fear of one wrong move derailing the entire project and making it difficult to start up again. Utilizing version control when managing projects enables teams to be more productive in their time and energy by streamlining their workflow processes. Not only does version control to save time and hassle for your project development team, but it gives you peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens, you have a backup plan ready if any mistakes are made, or changes need to be reversed quickly. Version control holds numerous benefits and should be considered when dealing with complex projects.


Learn more about how to set up the right VCS for your organization! Please fill out the form below to reach our talent experts.

Phil is Aspirant's Managing Director of the App Development & Integration practice with a focus on providing enterprise-grade solutions. His 30 years of experience have given him the opportunity to work across many markets, industries, and applications. Phil is leading a team of skilled web and mobile developers building strategic solutions for our customers.

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